It’s easy to define yourself with labels: Mom. Dad. Breadwinner. PTA member. Soccer coach.
But how well do you really know yourself?
When I think about this question, I’m reminded of the movie Runaway Bride, starring Julia Roberts, in which the heroine couldn’t find true happiness until she found herself. In the movie, she made eggs a dozen different ways because she realized that she didn’t even know how she liked her eggs. (Sound familiar?)
This month, I went to a retreat to spend some quiet time to rediscover myself. It left me feeling reinvigorated, and it taught me a lot about who I am.
So now, I’d like to do the same for you. During my month of “Doing You,” I want you to take some time to reconnect with yourself. I want you to look beyond the labels and discover who you really are, what makes you happy, and what you want to achieve in life. Here are five ways to do it.
Think about what makes you happy.
Early in your life, you often experienced pure joy. Whether you were playing hopscotch, winning a soccer game, or mastering a Mozart sonata on the piano, you savored one of life’s greatest gifts: absolute bliss.
But now that you’re a grownup, and your life revolves around responsibilities—what you should do, what you need to do, what you feel guilty about not doing—I’m betting that such moments of real joy are few and far between. That’s because you almost never ask yourself what you want to do.
So think back to the moments of joy you remember in your life. Now, ask yourself: What would bring you similar joy now? Would taking cooking classes, mastering ballroom dancing, or planting a garden make you happy? Whatever you choose, make time for it—and do it.
Try doing what you fear.
If you stay in your comfort zone forever, you can avoid the fear that comes with taking risks. But there’s a big price to pay, because you’ll never fully discover who you are and what amazing abilities you have.
I know for a fact that all successful actors, writers, dancers, chefs, and rock stars have one thing in common: at some point, they’ve all been scared out of their wits! But they still went to auditions, sent manuscripts to agents, applied to Julliard or Le Cordon Bleu, or took a deep breath and walked out on that stage.
I understand the kind of fear they’ve overcome, because I had to overcome it myself. It took guts for me to send out book manuscripts (and I cried when I got rejection letters). But I now have seven successful books, including a New York Times bestseller. And I still get stage fright before I go on TV—but I’ve worked my way up from local shows to Good Morning America and The Doctors.
So step outside of that comfort zone—even if it’s just a small step. And keep doing it over and over again, because each time you conquer your fear, you’ll get more confident. You’ll learn that failure won’t break you, that succeeding at something difficult is a rush, and that you haven’t even begun to discover all of your talents.
Stop telling lies about yourself.
Okay, this one is tough. But every time you tell a lie about yourself, you become less you. And every time you live in your truth, you become more you.
So think about it. How many lies have you told about yourself recently, either in personal conversations or online?
Have you lied about your feelings, your life, or your personal opinions? Have you nodded in agreement when your friends said things you actually thought were misguided or cruel? Have you pretended to be fine, when you’re really struggling with money problems, illness, anxiety, or depression?
If so, stop hiding. I know you can’t always tell the truth about other people (and sometimes it’s kinder not to). But be more open about telling the truth about yourself.
Keep a journal.
Journaling is one of the best ways to get to know yourself better, so get in the habit of writing an entry every day. It doesn’t need to be long; even two or three paragraphs will help you clarify your feelings, thoughts, and goals.
In your journal, write honestly about your deepest feelings. What are your dreams? Your disappointments? Your hopes? Your fears? Also, write about the people in your life. This can open your eyes to which relationships are improving your life and which you’d be better off ending.
One good journaling trick is to free write. Set a time limit—for instance, fifteen minutes—and write down whatever comes to mind, without censoring yourself. Frequently, thoughts and feelings that you’ve suppressed will come to the surface.
Be aware of your own feelings.
It’s easy to get so caught up in the whirlwind of life that you’re constantly acting rather than just being. And it’s easy to worry about everyone else’s emotions—your kids, your partner, your boss—and completely ignore your own.
To rediscover yourself, you need to actively reconnect with your feelings. So several times a day, stop and ask yourself: How do I feel right now? Identify the emotion you’re feeling, and then score it on a scale of one to five. It may sound silly, but it’s a powerful way to get back in touch with your inner self.
Some of these steps will be easy to follow. Others—for instance, living in your truth and doing what you fear—will be a bigger challenge. But all of them will give you new insight into the most important person in your life: You!
Keep Thinking Big & Living Bold!